When our house was built in 1920, only 35% of all homes had electricity! Our house must have been pretty high tech - indoor plumbing and sewer, electricity, and even a garage for your horseless carriage! Ok, maybe that's an exaggeration but the point is, electricity was still pretty new and the first owners must have been thrilled just to have lights. I bet they didn't even care that the light switches were laid out in a silly pattern and they had to walk all over just to turn them on and off. They may not have cared in 1920, but 90 years later we do!
You know those three-way switches in most houses where two switches control the same light? They're great because you can turn on the light as you enter the room, then turn it off from another exit as you leave. We have one of those. In our entire house. Now that the sun sets at 4:30, we rely on our lights a lot and it's starting to feel a little ridiculous. It takes two people to walk from the basement to our bedroom if you want to have any light, here's our little dance:
- I turn on the laundry room light so Katrina can see the stairs.
- She turns on the stair light and I turn off the laundry room light.
- She turns on the kitchen light and I turn off the stair light
- She turns on the dining room light and I turn off the kitchen light.
- She turns on the hall light and I turn off the dining room light.
- She turns on the upstairs hall light (three way switch!!!) and I turn off the hall light.
- We both walk upstairs with light, then turn the stair light off from the three way switch.
I basically walk in the dark the entire way, but the next room gives off enough light for me to see. Oh the joys of an older home!
We're getting pretty fed up with this so I'm putting on my electrician's hat and getting to work! The two worst areas are 1) The dining room because it's a central walk way with three entrances and only one switch and 2) The basement where the light at the bottom of the stairs is only controlled from a switch on the first floor at the top of the stair, and you have to walk half way across the basement to turn on the next light.
Our first electrical project will be to add a three-way switch in the dining room so we can make better use of that brass chandelier we spray painted black. The red box and line is the current switch and power line. It's a great place for a switch if you're coming from the kitchen but if you're going the other way, you can't turn on a light until you've passed through the room. So I'm going to add the green switch and power line. I drew two green lines representing the negative power lines but this will be run in one 3-wire cable in reality. I should be able to run the lines through the basement so I don't need to tear up walls or ceiling to add it.
Update: We did this project! Check it out here.
Last month we wrote about our plans to finish the basement but we're still a little on the fence about whether we'll put our money toward the basement or toward some much needed exterior work. Either way there are some basic electrical changes we want make to create a more livable basement. Right now the lights are either on pull chains or on switches that are on the opposite end of the rooms as the stairs. I'm also running the home theater off a circuit that jumps all over and ends up connecting to the fridge in the kitchen. That's definitely too much power for one circuit! In the basement we plan to make these changes:
- Add a 20 amp circuit for a freezer and the home theater
- Install recessed lighting in the living room and game area on a dimmer
- Add a three way switch to the light at the bottom of the stairs so you can use it from the basement!
These projects will have me running cable all over and hooking up new circuits to the breaker. Luckily electricity generally make sense to me, I've been reading some great books and also learning from the Circuit Detective's website - a great resource for anyone looking to learn more!
Stay tuned for all our successes and failures along the way. In the mean time, pray I don't kill myself trying all of this!!